My kids are awesome. They are funny, talented, caring, intelligent, and they are great little buddies for almost anything I want to do. As I sit here, wrapped in a blanket in the middle of a frozen January, I am already starting to compile a list of things I want to do with them this summer. Last summer was epic for us. It was the first summer of my life that I was a stay-at-home mom and I didn’t have much else to occupy me other than mothering. Peter was doing a legal externship with the city attorney 45 miles from our house, which left the kids and I by ourselves for around 10 hours a day. I was determined to not let this time slink by, spending hours in front of the television or busied with Legos.
As soon as school was out, we made a list of things we wanted to do. Most afternoons, we headed to a local school and took advantage of ‘lunch in the park,’ a federal program that provides a free lunch to any kid under 18 years old. No paperwork. No ‘qualifying.’ No kidding. It was the best. We’d run our errands in the morning, and by the time we were done we’d swing over to the school playground. The kids would eat, I would chat with other moms, the kids would play on the playground until they were good and tired and then we’d head home, exhausted, for naps. There were never fights over who was going to sit in what chair, who wanted their sandwich cut in triangles instead of rectangles, and there was no mess to clean up afterward! I loved it.
We also learned basic American Sign Language together. We had become acquainted with the Signing Time DVDs when Andrew was in speech therapy. When the Signing Time website had a sale, I snatched up 6 of the DVD’s and we watched them pretty regularly all summer. By the time school started, most of my kids could communicate with some fluency using ASL. It opened a lot of conversations too, like how everyone is different, that some people have ears (or eyes, or legs etc.) that don’t work like theirs, that it changes the way they speak if their hearing is impaired. My 7-year-old also had a light bulb moment when he was told that people who are hearing impaired aren’t ‘death,’ they are ‘deaf.’ J
I started cooking with my kids a lot. Each of my older boys had a night of the week when they got to help plan and prepare dinner. It was pretty exciting for them, especially little Ian, my budding chef. It helped them learn about the food groups, the way food looks, food safety (no we don’t cut the tomatoes for the salad on the same cutting board we used for cutting the raw chicken!), and general kitchen safety. They also learned how to read a recipe and fractions (we double A LOT of recipes!) At my birthday Sunday, I received a citrus reamer from my 5-year-old. He knew I needed one. J
We went to most of the movies in the children’s summer cinema series. Our local schools partner with a theater and offer a series of 8 childrens’ movies (all older movies) for $5. They were on weekday mornings, concessions were cheaper, and the kids always had fun. It was a good opportunity to start to introduce the twins to ‘movie theater behavior.’ It was rough at first; trying to get them to not run all over the theater, but the winter series just started last Saturday and they didn’t budge for the entire movie! Success!
Again, I have to sing the praises of Pinterest. J I found a ton of simple kid-level science experiments to do with basic household items. We usually did one a week and usually on a really hot day when you couldn’t really play outside. We made ‘elephant toothpaste,’ dissolved the shell off an egg, made our own bouncy balls with Elmer’s school glue and borax, and wasted a few dollars on the thrill of some Mentos in Diet Coke (if you don’t know what I’m talking about here, head outside with some and see for yourself!)
All in all, it was an awesome summer. When my kids were babies, it was hard to imagine a day when I would be able to do fun things with them, carry on a conversation with them, or even sleep through the blasted night! But now that it’s upon me, I can see how every stage of parenting has its’ own downside and its’ own rewards. Do I have any babies to snuggle and hold anymore, a little one who is just discovering the world and how it works? No. But I do have kids who laugh, run, play, are excited to learn, always want to have fun and know a ton of good knock-knock jokes.
A couple of months ago, I was standing wearily in the grocery store check-out line. It was nearly the end of a long day and the kids were being loud. The babies were fussing a little in the cart, the big boys were asking for candy in the line, Nathan was telling jokes and Brandon and Ian were cackling hysterically… the typical grocery store bit. There were a couple of young 20-something girls behind us, eyeing the kids, waving to the babies and talking to each other. After we checked out and were crossing the parking lot to the car, the big boys hopped on the sides of the cart and said, “Run, MOM!” I smiled, and took off at a full run, my cart weighted down by groceries and five kids yelling, “Faster, FASTER!” As we hit the speed bump, the cart bucked satisfactorily. We finished making our way to the van. I loaded in kids and groceries and took the cart to the corral a few parking spaces away. Parked next to it were the same two girls who had been behind us in line. The one in the driver’s seat opened her door, got out and ran over to me. Breathlessly, she cried, “Your kids are AWESOME!” I smiled, “I know! I’m so lucky!”